"Walkways & Carways" - by Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through Glass, Tokyo
(Above) - It looks strikingly like a scene from a long-ago era, but I took this photo yesterday (on August 14th, 2007). I was riding around in a car with a friend looking for a restaurant to eat lunch at, and as we went from place to place (one place was closed, one was reserved for a private party, etc.), I idly noticed how semi-rural Japan has become a car-culture in a big way (see photo below), and then I looked down the road on one back way my friend took (he's a local of the area and knows the roads well) and saw the scene above! It was as though we had driven through a time-transporter link into 1920 or something. I hurriedly took the photo above and since then I've been thinking about how it feels to walk down a road like that. I've walked down similar roads in the past (although most of my walking these days is in the concrete jungles of Tokyo), and while it's no great fun being out in the hot sun (it was 37C at the time), you have a far greater appreciation of the cold water and shade awaiting you at your destination, as well as an understanding of the distance between you and where you came from, than is the case when riding around in an air-conditioned car.
(Above) - Faster and more comfortable to be zooming around in cars, but the space required for the machinery detracts from the scenery, and so there's an even greater desire to just be where you're going and not want to see the intermediary ground. On the narrow back road, with no parking lots and less of the land covered with asphalt, the land is more alive and interesting. Sometimes I think we are paying a very heavy price for the convenience of using cars. This scene, by the way, is only a few minutes from the back road (taken an hour later, with lunch in-between).
The day before the two panorama photos at the top of the page were taken, I rode the rails out to Kawagoe, spent some time there walking around taking pictures (marveling at how hot it was), and then I went out to the edge of Saitama and stayed at a friend's house, going out the next day by car to see some local sites.
(Below) - This is a new, but very nicely done retro-restaurant that I had lunch at. It is the nicest application of using the old aesthetics in a new operation I've seen I think. The building is new, but they incorporated old wooden beams from dismantled buildings, so it has the feel of an old traditional building, accentuated with the traditional Japanese garden running around the building and the food servers wearing traditional kimono. The music, unfortunately, is light fluffy pop, but considering how much most people here dislike traditional shakuhachi ("depressing"), koto ("formal, stiff") and shamisen (appreciated, but only on special occasions, not something people would put on their home stereo), I couldn't blame the restaurant for going with what people like to hear. Still, as the only element of the total package not with a traditional theme, it seems a shame. Personally I would love to have heard shakuhachi and/or koto music - but I like it more than most people here do.
(Below) - Back out on the road - asphalt, concrete, cars, utility poles, wires... and the last picture looking something like a rural sunset? That was taken on the same day, but back in Shinjuku between high-rise buildings! The restaurant and the last image give me cause for hope - maybe we'll work out a balanced way of living with our technology yet.
Copyright 2007 by Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through Glass, Tokyo